“My name is Rick Wheat. I’m just thankful to be able to stand up and say I’m glad the Lord saved my soul.” These words were spoken every Sunday morning in his senior years by a silver headed cowboy in a little church in the Ozark Mountains of Douglas County, Missouri, during “testimony” time. He held the front of the pew as he raised his broken body that had seen it’s fair share of the “cowboy way of life”. His gentle, yet firmly spoken words gave testimony to the nature of his character, his values, and to the very heart of a man who recognized his need for a Savior.
Rick Wheat was born to James “Pete” and Eunice (Smith) Wheat on August 31, 1947, in Norwood, Missouri. His mom, his dad, his brother, Kenneth, and he lived on a rock covered piece of land he called “the farm”. Life was hard and the stories he told, Rick was a master story teller, painted a picture of early morning farm chores followed by a very long walk with his brother through the rolling hills of the Ozarks to the one room school house in Dora, Missouri, where he learned his “three R’s”. The detailed stories he told of his growing up years always included a horse. Never did he speak of toys, games, vacations, or things most people remember from their childhood. His shared memories were of the horses he worked, rode, and played on as a child and then as a young man.
Rick didn’t often speak of it; however, he was an Army Veteran of the Vietnam War. He served his country for six years.
Rick was the husband to and is survived by his wife, Shana, whom he married twice. He called her “Darlin” every chance he got, and he and she shared his love of horses throughout their life together. He told stories of the two of them training a string of 20 horses at a time for trail riding businesses by tying the horses together in a long line and riding the 20 miles one way to the “next town over” with Shana in the lead followed by the 20 strung together horses and Rick in the rear. The pictures his words painted showed he loved the challenge of the training, but most of all it showed the love he had for Shana and their time spent together on the back roads sweating and working together to achieve their dreams. Rick loved playing jokes on people, and his favorite person to “get” was Shana. April Fool’s Day should have been called “Rick Wheat Day”, as he always planned and plotted and laid in wait for the perfect moment to surprise her. He would laugh so hard he couldn’t breathe when he told of each year’s “April Fool’s” got her again stories.
Rick’s formative years laid the foundation for his lifelong passion, horses. He was often called “horse whisperer” before that term became popular in the horse world. His uncanny ability to size a horse up, to know what it needed to perform at its very best, and how to achieve the goal of a successful relationship between the horse and its rider was an amazing sight to watch. Rick’s desire to see a horse perform at its very best led him to create and market his Noavel Headstall. It was recognized and named as number 24 on the list of all-time best inventions by the American Farriers Association. It was and is still used by farriers, veterinarians, and equine enthusiasts around the world. He so believed in the Noavel that Rick never allowed any bits on his horses, and there were no bits to be found in his barns. He was recognized by ARTEX Animal Welfare Association and Blue Bonnet Humane Society for having the most humane training method and device. Rick was the only trainer recognized by the Amish and Brotherhood of Working Farriers Association, as well as countless other honors.
In 2012, Rick suffered a massive stroke, which paralyzed his right arm and leg. The doctors held out little hope that he would ever walk again, much less ride horses. The first time Rick struggled to mount a horse was frustrating for him, but the end result was pure joy. At the time, Shana was attending the University of Arkansas at Little Rock completing a degree in Social Work. They decided she should earn a certification in Rehabilitative Riding as well. Rick and Shana knew that if equine-assisted therapies and activities could change his life, it would certainly be life-changing for others in need. W Heart W Therapeutic Riding Stables opened on October 2, 2014, at the Wheat's ranch in Mt. Pleasant, Arkansas.
Rick has received numerous awards and recognitions. In addition to Cowboy of the Year, Rick was at the top of the list for Professional Horse Trainers by 2010.
Rick is survived by his wife, Shana, his son, James (Kensey), grandson, Brooks, his brother, Kenneth (Linda), and innumerable family and friends. He was preceded in death by his father and mother and his son, Robert.
Per his wishes, Rick will be cremated. There will be a Celebration of Life at a date to be decided.
“My name is Rick Wheat. I’m just thankful to be able to stand up and say I’m glad the Lord saved my soul.” Yes, He has Mr. Rick. Yes, He has. Enter into your rest as you hear the seven greatest words you will ever hear, “Well done thy good and faithful servant.” We will see you in the barns of heaven.